1 August, Yū Takekawa

文字数 5,247文字

Mōri Shinsuke Spearheads the Charge


Announced by a clap of thunder, Mōri Shinsuke sprinted across the battlefield in Okehazama, slick with mud and water from a sudden onslaught of torrential rain.
  Hattori Koheita dashed up the hill three steps ahead, churning up a tidal wave of mud in his wake. Koheita looked over his shoulder and bellowed:
  “Shinsuke, stay back! I call the honor of striking the first blow!”
  Large drops of rain sputtered off their armor. Raising his helmet’s visor to quickly glance up at Koheita, Shinsuke growled in return:
  “No, Yoshimoto’s head is mine!”
  Atop the hill, the banner of the joint Ashikaga forces could be seen fluttering tantalizingly in the violent wind, illuminated by white hot streaks of lightning. The flag marked the encampment of Imagawa Yoshimoto, leader of the insurgent army, who rested unawares in his tent.
  Shinsuke and Koheita clambered over each other in an urgent race to be the first over the wooden fence surrounding the enemy’s stronghold.
  Koheita roared:
  “Let the record show that it was I, Hattori Koheita, cavalry guard for the great Oda Nobunaga, who first breached the enemy’s gates!”
  Shinsuke raised his spear, and acknowledged his comrade’s achievement with a hearty howl. A bolt of lightning shot across the sky, dancing like a dragon in heavenly encouragement of the duo’s valor before crashing to earth nearby. The lightning sent shivers down Shinsuke’s spine, and electrified his excited resolve to topple the enemy general.
  As their small army set off from their home quarters in Kiyosu Castle, Shinsuke could have sworn he saw tears in the eyes of his superior, Oda Nobunaga, the self-styled deputy governor of Kazusa Province. Oda’s band of 2,000 soldiers paled in comparison to Imagawa’s forces, reported to be at least 20,000 men strong.
  

Defeat

is

all

but

certain.


  The departing soldiers knew that defeat would almost certainly entail the execution of their leader, his head displayed on a pike for all to see. The soldiers themselves would be taken prisoner, should they be lucky enough to survive at all.
  Imagawa’s forces let out a belated battle cry, and surged toward the attackers. The tip of Shinsuke’s spear pirouetted through the air, parrying an enemy sword to plunge into the foe’s open mouth. The unfortunate opponent’s eyes opened wide in shock, his arms and legs convulsing in a tortured death knell. Tossing the enemy aside like a rag doll, Shinsuke trampled on the fresh carcass as he advanced onward.
  Taking a life is no easy matter. Alone at night, Shinsuke was haunted by terrifying nightmares in which the ghosts of his victims visited his bedside seeking revenge, ready to strangle him as he slept.
  

We

have

to

believe

that

Oda

Nobunaga

will

bring

peace

and

unify

the

land.


  Having broken through the enemy’s ranks, Shinsuke found an abandoned palanquin, and a lone samurai. The samurai was clad in intricately braided battle armor with scarlet gloves, and a helmet adorned with golden metal ornaments that resembled proudly arching deer antlers.
  “Yoshimoto!”
  Koheita brandished his spear, and lunged toward Yoshimoto. A capable warrior in his own right, Yoshimoto landed a few swift swipes with his blade before kicking Koheita aside.
  “Shinsuke, forget about me. It’s up to you to cut off the brute’s head!”
  Propelled forward by Koheita’s cries, Shinsuke charged at his foe with a sudden fury. Swinging his spear overhead, he brought the blade down on Yoshimoto’s shoulder. Despite reeling from the force of the blow, Yoshimoto managed to jab his sword at Shinsuke, missing the mark by a hair’s breadth, and instead merely grazing Shinsuke’s cheek.
  A sudden flash of pale white light illuminated Yoshimoto in stark relief as he sat limply on the wet earth, looking up at Shinsuke in defeat. Still, Yoshimoto’s eyes shone beautifully in the face of death. Shinsuke sensed that this warrior was not the least bit afraid of meeting his demise on the battlefield.
  As Shinsuke dropped his spear and reached for his sword, Yoshimoto simply gazed up, and calmly asked:
  “Tell me, what is your name?”
  Shinsuke raised his sword high in the air:
  “They call me Mōri Shinsuke, cavalryman in service of the great Oda Nobunaga. But from today, I will be known as the samurai who claimed your head.”
  Bringing the sword down with all his might, Shinsuke felt the unmistakable sensation of blade slicing through neckbone—a slight yet satisfying tickle in his palms.


Translated by Daniel González/Arranged by TranNet KK

Yū Takekawa
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, 1981. Graduated with a major in German literature from Rikkyo University’s Graduate School of Arts. After working as a bookstore employee and journalist for a technical journal, he won the 1st Kessen! Literary Award in 2016 for “Onimadoi” (Puzzling the ogre). Made his debut in 2017 with the newly written novel

Tora

no

kiba

(The tiger’s fang), based on the story of the Takeda clan in Kai Province, for which he received the 7th Japan Historical Writing Club Awards for New Writers in 2018. His most recent work is

Rakubai

no

fu

(The moment of ruin).

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